A New Jersey man sentenced to 22 years in prison for beating another man to death in Union County in 2016 could walk free after an appeals court ruled Wednesday that police unlawfully searched his property.
Yves Marcellus has pleaded guilty to one charge of manslaughter in the death of Matthew Murrell in Union Township. Murrell’s body was found next to a house the morning after a July 4 party.
Marcellus, who was not eligible for parole until 2035, will not be released as a result of the ruling, according to the state’s public defender’s office, which represented him on appeal.
The Union County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Marcellus, did not immediately comment Wednesday on the decision or whether it plans to pursue a new trial.
The morning after a holiday on July 4, 2016, the victim’s body was found next to a house. After questioning Marcellus, the police requested permission to search a house belonging to his aunt where he had previously stayed. They carried out a warrantless search of a bedroom in the house rented at the time by Marcellus’ mother.
The search was complicated by the fact that Marcellus’ mother speaks Creole, which the agents did not speak or understand. She eventually led the police to an opaque bag and shoebox in her bedroom which contained Marcellus’ clothes and sneakers.
In its decision on Wednesday, the court acknowledged that while the arguments on appeal centered on whether Marcellus’ aunt could consent to the search of his mother’s bedroom, the central question was whether one or the other of the women had the authority to consent to the search of the bag and the shoebox. .
Marcellus had an expectation of privacy even though his property was in a place owned by someone else, the court ruled. The ruling removed the bag and shoebox evidence and allowed Marcellus to withdraw his guilty plea.
“It would not have been objectively reasonable for the police to believe that the defendant’s aunt or the defendant’s mother, who never claimed ownership of the bag, shoebox or its contents, had the authority to authorize a search of them,” the court wrote. .